Boston – The Boston Foundation has announced plans to immediately reinstate a Request for Proposals for Boston City schools that seek to convert to Pilot School status. This followed the news announcement today that the Boston Teachers Union and the office of the Boston School Superintendent have reached an agreement to create at least seven new Pilot Schools.
The agreement represented a breakthrough on the Pilot School issue, which had been stalled since a vote to convert the Gardner School in Allston was vetoed by the Boston Teachers Union two years ago. The agreement was praised by Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation, which has been a leader in the effort to expand the number of Pilot Schools in the city.
“The pilot school idea was too innovative, too important and too successful to die,” said Grogan. “We congratulate the Mayor, the School Committee, the Superintendent and the Boston Teachers Union for finding a way to go forward with this unique Boston model. The Boston Foundation is prepared to reinstitute immediately its program of funding both planning and implementation grants for new Pilot Schools.”
The Foundation has previously funded the process by which city schools explore how to make the conversion, including meetings for faculty and staff and strategic planning sessions. Pilot Schools are Boston district public schools that are granted autonomy over their budgets, hiring and the creation of a school-specific culture. In turn, administrators are released from some of the rules included in the union’s collective bargaining agreement—in particular, teachers at Pilot Schools can work extra hours without receiving overtime pay. The new agreement includes some changes in the pay structure for faculty that will apply existing Pilot Schools as well as any created as a result of today’s agreement.
Recent research conducted by the Center for Continuing Education in Roxbury, and released earlier this month at a Forum sponsored by the Boston Foundation, demonstrated the impact of the Pilot Schools: a student body that closely mirrored the population of the overall public school system performed significantly better in terms of MCAS test scores and in the percentage of high school graduates who went on to universities and technical colleges. The results of the CCE report, entitled Progress and Promise: A Report on the Boston Pilot Schools, which was released at the Understanding Boston Forum is available at www.ccebos.org/pubslinks.html .
The Forum has been cited as part of the process by which the City of Boston and the Boston Teachers Union came to find common ground, with a panel that included Richard Stutman, President of the Boston Teachers Union, Thomas Payzant, Boston School Superintendent, and Paul Grogan, who has been an outspoken supporter of Pilot School conversion.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who made Pilot Schools possible 10 years ago as the result of an partnership with the Boston Teachers Union and the office of the Boston School Superintendent, praised the new agreement as a way to give local students more choice.
The agreement makes possible seven Pilot Schools in the next three years, although that number is explicitly not a cap on the number of conversions possible. These schools could be created as the result of a combination of existing Pilot Schools, the conversion of non-Pilot Schools, or the conversion of State-governed charter schools which elected to become a part of the Boston Public School system.
The Boston Foundation issued an earlier request for proposal in 2002, inviting representatives of schools interested in conversion to Pilot status to a meeting. The expectation was to draw half a dozen schools, according to Grogan. Instead, almost 40 schools sent representatives to attend the meeting, of which fully 15 applied for planning grants, 13 were funded by the Foundation and four schools of this group created a plan, voted to convert, and today are Pilot Schools. The Gardner School was the fifth school that received funding, completed the planning process and secured an 83 percent vote to convert. It’s request to convert, however, was vetoed by the Union.
The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with an endowment of over $731 million. In 2005, the Foundation and its donors made more than $60 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of $73 million. The Foundation is made up of some 850 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes. The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges. For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit www.tbf.org or call 617-338-1700.